China’s Resilience

by on Friday, 31 October 2008 Comments
Whomever lives or travels in China cannot but be struck by China’s resilience in the midst of the world economic crisis. For sure, China’s stock market is taking a beating, real estate is steadily going down, and unemployment is threatening to become a major social problem. However, most Chinese people still show a robust optimism, consumption remains vibrant, and the majority of Chinese observers believe that China will suffer from the crisis much less than the rest of the world, eventually consolidating its economic and diplomatic rise. Recollections from the Asian economic crisis of 1997-2000 play a role in this decidedly optimistic scenario.

Is this a delusion? In the near future will China meet with much more severe challenges than foreseen today? It is far from being impossible. However, China’s psychological resilience might prove to be a factor of economic resilience as well. The positive energy displayed by ordinary Chinese can help the country tackle its problems with resources not found in countries which suffer from a crisis of confidence and from doubts about their own future. Weathering a storm is largely a question of collective spirit, and economy has proven to be for a very large part a field of social psychology…

It remains that a reversal in the public feelings would be very dangerous for China - an especially volatile country. In other words, the stakes of the crisis are higher for China than for other nations: weathering the storm would be a resounding success giving even more significance to China’s rise; conversely, a breakup of public confidence would have consequences deeper and more far-reaching than anywhere else. China’s resilience makes a pessimistic scenario less likely than an analysis based on mere statistical data would suggest. It remains that resilience has limits and that a breakdown is still a working hypothesis.

(Photo by B.V.)
Benoit Vermander (魏明德)

Benoit Vermander lives in Shanghai. He teaches philosophy and religious anthropology at the University of Fudan.

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